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12 posts from August 2018

08/30/2018

~Spice-is-Nice Oven-Roasted Jamaican-Jerk Chicken~

IMG_2058Leave it to the Jamaicans.  I can't think of another exotic-to-me cuisine that does a better job of making my life easier.  I mean, seriously, they've cornered the market on marketing high-quality, bold-flavored dry-spice blends and rubs, wet pastes and marinades, barbecue, steak and hot pepper sauces, etc. -- when it comes to cooking Jamaican fare at home, some of their store-bought time-savers make me ponder why anyone would want to concoct "it" from scratch.

That said, time spent in my kitchen is therapy -- it's my "don't worry, be happy" space.  It's the game-on place where movies and music play, all problems appear smaller and magic happens. Any reason to spend more time in the kitchen is a good reason.  Since cooking-from-scratch extends my stay in my playroom, the mouth-watering end result more than justifies the occasionally difficult means.  Jamaican-style jerk cooking does not fall into the category of difficult.

Charred & crispy skin w/moist, pull-apart pinky meat, jerk is... 

IMG_2218... nicely-spiced w/a warm heat that coats your throat...

IMG_2222... & a succulent sauce that'll make you smack your lips. 

IMG_2226In a (coco)nutshell, jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica.  It was developed by African slaves who escaped into the mountains of Jamaica after the British captured this island paradise from Spain in 1655.  Forced to adapt to their new surroundings, the Maroons (the name given to the escaped slaves) made use of the foods nature provided, by pulverizing the edibles they gathered into a fiery pasty rub.  By adding fruit and/or citrus juice, the fiery pasty rub became a spicy basting and dipping sauce.  When thinned down with a bit of drinking water or the milk from a coconut, the spicy sauce became a highly-flavored wet marinade -- over time, items from trades, like vinegar and/or rum were transitioned into the mixture.  Once rubbed and/or marinated, the meat or game they hunted was then slowly cooked over a smoking pimento-wood fire.

Originally used for pork, it's now common to "jerk" chicken, beef, fish & seafood too.

The "jerk" in jerk comes from the Spanish word via the Peruvian word "charqui", the noun for dried strips of meat now called "jerky".  Jerk seasoning was/is the dry spice blend used to season jerky, and Jamaican jerk seasoning, known for the flavors of allspice, thyme and pepper, is perhaps the most famous.  Throughout the Caribbean, islanders preserved/cured their spice-rubbed meats by drying them in the intense sun or over a slow fire -- this allowed the meat to be taken on long journeys and eaten as is or reconstituted in boiling water.  The word most likely transitioned to the verb, "jerking", in reference to the way the meat gets "jerked" around on the grill as it cooks.

Making my marinade & roasting the chickens:

IMG_2186As mentioned above, the Jamaicans have cornered the market on marketing high-quality, bold-flavored dry spice blends and rubs, wet pastes and marinades, barbecue, steak and hot pepper sauces.  In a pinch there's no shame and little compromise in using them.  When it comes to making my oven-roasted jerk chicken, I like to use a wet marinade (as opposed to a paste), and, when time is short, it's the Walkerswood brand that I reach for.

Note:  My recipe is my copycat of their recipe.  It makes  4 1/4 cups (36 ounces), which is about the equivalent of 2, 17-ounce bottles of their store-bought (34 ounces).  One cup of marinade is enough for 1 whole chicken that has been split in half to form two pieces.  I'm using half today, to marinate and roast 4 half chickens, and, I'm freezing the rest for a round of jerk on another day. 

Making marinade, roasting chickens & simmering sauce:

IMG_2156For the chickens, marinade and dipping/barbecue sauce:

4  4-5 pound frying chickens, as even in size as possible, split in half, backbones removed, to form 8 pieces total (Note:  I ask my local butcher to do this for me.)

8  ounces large-diced red onion (about 2 cups)

4  ounces diced green onion (about 1 cup)

2  ounces large-diced ginger root (about 1/3-1/2 cup)

1  ounce whole garlic cloves (about 6 large cloves)

4  Scotch bonnet peppers, with seeds, stems removed

1  cup lime juice, preferably fresh or high-quality organic, not from concentrate

1  cup malt vinegar

1/4  cup mild-flavored molasses

1/4  cup dark rum

2  tablespoons dried thyme leaves

6  teaspoons ground allspice

6  teaspoons ground cinnamon

2  teaspoons ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon ground cloves

4  teaspoons sea salt

4  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

1/4  cup vegetable oil

IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159 IMG_2159~Step 1.  Prep and place red onion, green onion, ginger, garlic and Scotch bonnets in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 50-60 rapid on-off pulses, very-finely mince the ingredients.  Open the processor lid and use a spatula to scrape down sides of work bowl.  Add the lime juice, vinegar, molasses, rum and all dry spices.  Process again, using a series of 10-20 rapid on-off pulses.  With motor running, through feedtube, drizzle in the oil, then process with motor running 30-45 more seconds.  There will be a generous 4 cups marinade.

IMG_1956 IMG_1956 IMG_1956 IMG_1956~Step 2.  Place each split chicken in a heavy-duty 2-gallon-sized food storage bag, positioning the two halves so the sharp bones face the inside once the bag is sealed.  Pour 1 cup of the marinade into each bag.  Gather the bag tightly up around the chicken and twist or zip closed. Using your hands, massage each bag, until each chicken is thoroughly coated in the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator 6-8 hours (minimum), overnight, or up to 48 hours (maximum) -- remove from refrigerator, to return to room temperature, 1 hour prior to roasting as follows:

IMG_2040 IMG_2040 IMG_2040 IMG_2040~Step 3.  To roast, insert a wire rack in the bottom of a large 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, then place a sheet of parchment paper on the rack.  Open each bag of chicken. One-at-a-time lift each half chicken up and out, allowing the excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag*, then arrange the halves, side-by-side on the rack in prepared pan.  Roast, uncovered on center rack of 350º oven, 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a tip of a knife.  Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minute, prior to serving.

*Note:  Do not discard the marinade in bags.  It will be used to make the sauce (recipe below).

IMG_2189 IMG_2189 IMG_2189 IMG_2202~Step 4.  Transfer all of the flavorful pan-drippings from the roasting pan to a fat/lean separator. Pour the lean portion into a small 1-1 1/2-quart saucepan and discard the fat portion.  Add the marinade remaining in the bag(s), about 1/2-3/4 cup per bag.  Place on the stovetop and bring to a simmer over medium- medium-high heat and continue to simmer for 3-4 minutes.  After roasting 2 chickens (4 pieces), there will be about 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Eat it w/your fingertips or fancy it up a bit served atop...

IMG_2068 2... my Island-Style Bejeweled Coconut & Black Bean Rice:

IMG_2090 2How about a Jerk-Chicken & Slaw on Coco Bread Sandwich?

IMG_2371Spice-is-Nice Oven-Roasted Jamaican-Jerk Chicken:  Recipe yields a generous 4 cups marinade/4-6 half chickens/4-6 servings/1 1/2-3 cups barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; food processor; large rubber spatula; 1-4 2-gallon food storage bags; 1-2, 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan(s); 1-2 parchment sheets; fat/lean separator; 1-1 1/2-quart saucepan

IMG_1236Cook's Note:  I don't cook Caribbean food often, but when I do, it's island-style good.  Thanks to a couple of chef friends, I know just enough about this cuisine to be dangerous without straying from the core flavors. ~ Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/27/2018

~Sweet & Caramelized Island-Spiced Yellow Plantains~

IMG_2137The closest a plantain gets to a ripe banana is the black-streaked yellow plantain.  Eaten raw, it still doesn't taste quite like, or have the mouthfeel of, a yellow banana, but, when sautéed, because of its high-starch and fully-developed sugar content, it can do something the banana can't: caramelize without losing its textural integrity.  Sweet and caramelized, and slightly-sticky-without-sticking-together, this quick-to-make side-dish is the perfect sweet complement to the fiery-hot flavors of Caribbean-style chicken- or shrimp- curry dishes and jerk-seasoned meats.

Let's talk plantains:  Ripe or unripe, plantains are eaten cooked.

IMG_1910The best way for me to culinarily describe the difference between the banana and a plantain:  If bananas are the sweet dessert course, plantains are the savory potato side-dish.  In fact, throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and South America, plantains are generically referred to as "cooking bananas", and bananas are referred to as "dessert bananas".

Like the banana, when it comes to the plantain, green denotes unripened, yellow denotes ripened, and everything in between is just another degree of ripe.  Unlike the banana, the dense, starchy plantain is almost always cooked before it's consumed -- while the fully-ripe yellow plantain can be eaten uncooked, for me, it's blandness makes it so boring, that after a bite or two, I just won't go on to finish it.  Depending on the recipe, sometimes it's desirable to choose the green, persnickity-to-peel-and-slice plantain.  Other times, you'll find the more agreeable, user-friendly mellow-yellow plantain on the ingredients list.  On this point, always follow the recipe.

For this reason, plantains are sold at all stages of culinary ripeness.  The all-green plantain can be peeled, diced and simmered in soups and stews.  A green- to- ever-so-slightly-yellow plantain can be peeled and sliced and kettle-fried until golden and crispy --  depending on how thick or thin the slices, they can be as crispy as a potato chips (chifles), or crispy-on-the-outside tender-on-the-inside and French-fry-esque (tostones).  The yellow- to- yellow-and-black-spotted plantain, when sliced to the desired thickness and sautéed will be done when it is soft throughout, golden and caramelized.  Plantains that ripen to a dark black color are well on their way to spoiling.

IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_2312The riper a plantain is, the easier it is to peel and slice or dice as directed. Photos 1 & 2:  Yellow plantains are the easiest to peel -- use a paring knife to trim the ends, score the length of skin in one spot, remove the skin with your fingertips, then slice with the knife.  Photos 3 & 4:  Green plantains range from difficult to pain-in-the-a**-difficult to peel -- use a paring knife to trim the ends, score the length of the skin in several spots, remove the skin in strips with your fingertips, then slice with a mandolin.  Photo 5:  In the event the green skin is too tough to remove in strips with fingertips, slice/section the unpeeled plantain into three-four smaller lengths, stand them up on their flat sides, and use the knife to strip the skin away from the fruit.

Tajaditas Dulces de Plantano (sweet plantains) = yellow plantains.

IMG_2130Bananas and plantains -- they resemble each other, and they're related too.   I eat a banana almost every morning, but, I can't say the same for the plantain.  By accident or out of curiosity, if you've ever peeled a plantain and taken a taste, you knew you weren't eating a banana. That said, when sautéed, the taste and texture of the yellow plantain is remarkable.  As a lover of sautéed bananas, a la bananas foster for dessert, or atop eggnog pancakes w/sautéed butter-rum 'n nog bananas, I find this fascinating.

IMG_20943  black-streaked, not black, yellow plantains, peeled and cut into 3/4"-thick discs

6  tablespoons lightly-packed light-brown sugar

1/4  teaspoon ground Jamaican allspice

1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8  teaspoon ground cloves

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

6  tablespoons peanut oil

IMG_2097 IMG_2097~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir to thoroughly combine the lightly-packed light-brown sugar with the ground Jamaican allspice, cinnamon, cloves and sea salt -- make sure the spices are thoroughly incorporated throughout.  Set aside.

IMG_2103 IMG_2103 IMG_2103 IMG_2103 IMG_2103 IMG_2103~Step 2.  Peel and slice each plantain into 3/4"-thick coins, placing them in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish as you work.  Even thickness = even cooking. Add the sugar mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula, toss plantains in sugar mixture to coat.  Note:  My baking dish has a lid so I just seal it tight and give the dish a few vigorous shakes.

IMG_2117 IMG_2117 IMG_2117 ~Step 3.  Place and heat the oil in a 12" nonstick skillet over medium- medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, little waves will appear across the surface.  Using your fingertips, one-at-a time, gently place the plantains, side-by-side and in a single layer, in the hot oil.  Sauté until light-golden on the first side, about 4-5 minutes.  With the aid of a fork and/or a thin spatula, flip plantains over (without poking holes in them) and cook until light-golden on second sides, 4-5 minutes. Throughout the cooking process, regulate/adjust the heat as needed, to keep plantains sizzling without scorching.  

IMG_2148~ Step 4.  With the aid of a fork and/or a thin spatula transfer plantains (without poking holes in them) to 1-2 plates.  Allow plantains to rest on the plate, 1-1 1/2 minutes, then flip them over and allow them to rest again for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Repeat the entire flipping process from start-to-finish one more time prior to transferring to a serving bowl -- plantains will be sticky, but manageable, and this post-sauté flipping process prevents them from sticking together when served.

Serve hot, warm or at room temp.  Once cooled, cover & store in refrigerator, then serve chilled or gently reheated in microwave.

IMG_2126Chifles (deep-fried plantain chips) = green plantains. 

IMG_2006Sweet & Caramelized Island-Spiced Yellow Plantains:  Recipe yields 4 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish, preferably w/a lid; large rubber spatula; 12" nonstick skillet; fork and/or thin spatula

IMG_1236Cook's Note:  I don't cook Caribbean food often, but when I do, it's island-style good.  Thanks to a couple of chef friends, I know just enough about this cuisine to be dangerous without straying from the core flavors. ~ Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/24/2018

~Deep-Fried Green Plantain Chips & Island Salsa Dip~

IMG_2006Bananas and plantains.  Plantains and bananas.  They resemble each other, and they're even related.   I peel and eat a banana almost every morning, but, I can't say the same for the plantain. By accident or out of curiosity, if you've ever peeled a plantain and taken a taste, you knew immediately you were not eating a banana.  The best way for me to culinarily describe the difference:  If bananas are the sweet dessert, plantains are the savory potatoes.  In fact, throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and South America, plantains are generically referred to as "cooking bananas", and bananas are referred to as "dessert bananas".

Let's talk plantains:  Ripe or unripe, plantains are eaten cooked.

IMG_1910Like the banana, when it comes to the plantain, green denotes unripened, yellow denotes ripened, and everything in between is just another degree of ripe.  Unlike the banana, the dense, starchy plantain is almost always cooked before it's consumed -- while the fully-ripe yellow plantain can be eaten uncooked, for me, it's blandness makes it so boring, that after a bite or two, I just won't go on to finish it.  Depending on the recipe, sometimes it's desirable to choose the green, persnickity-to-peel-and-slice plantain.  Other times, you'll find the more agreeable, user-friendly mellow-yellow plantain on the ingredients list.  On this point, always follow the recipe.

For this reason, plantains are sold at all stages of culinary ripeness.  The all-green plantain can be peeled, diced and simmered in soups and stews.  A green- to- ever-so-slightly-yellow plantain can be peeled and sliced and kettle-fried until golden and crispy --  depending on how thick or thin the slices, they can be as crispy as a potato chips (chifles), or crispy-on-the-outside tender-on-the-inside and French-fry-esque (tostones).  The yellow- to- yellow-and-black-spotted plantain, when sliced to the desired thickness and sautéed will be done when it is soft throughout, golden and caramelized.  Plantains that ripen to a dark black color are well on their way to spoiling.

IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_2312The riper a plantain is, the easier it is to peel and slice or dice as directed. Photos 1 & 2:  Yellow plantains are the easiest to peel -- use a paring knife to trim the ends, score the length of skin in one spot, remove the skin with your fingertips, then slice with the knife.  Photos 3 & 4:  Green plantains range from difficult to pain-in-the-a**-difficult to peel -- use a paring knife to trim the ends, score the length of the skin in several spots, remove the skin in strips with your fingertips, then slice with a mandolin.  Photo 5:  In the event the green skin is too tough to remove in strips with fingertips, slice/section the unpeeled plantain into three-four smaller lengths, stand them up on their flat sides, and use the knife to strip the skin away from the fruit. 

Chifles (deep-fried plantain chips) are made w/green plantains. 

IMG_1951All my sources suggest that all-green plantains should never be eaten raw, and, that's probably good advice, as, it is about as palatable as any raw potato -- it's not.  That said, the green plantain is the only plantain that will get you a really crispy plantain chip -- yellow plantains, no matter how long you deep-fry them, will be soft-to-soggy.  Plantain chips have become so popular in recent years, they often replace peanuts as airline snacks.  Interestingly enough, if the green plantain has ripened just enough, to a state containing blushes of yellow on areas of the skin, plantain chips are allowed to be marketed as banana chips (the kind found in many tropical trail mixtures).

IMG_1914 IMG_1914 IMG_1914 IMG_1914 IMG_1914Specifics & tips.  Making plantain chips is straightforward.  Peeled green plantains, via the aid of a mandolin are very-thinly sliced.  The slices, about a scant 1/8"-thick, are dropped into the hot 360º corn or peanut oil of a deep-fryer or a heavy pot fitted with a candy thermometer, to deep-fry for 8-9 minutes.  Depending on their size, each plantain will yield 40-60 slices.  That said, because the slices discolor quickly after peeling, it's best to work assembly-line style, peeling and slicing one plantain at a time while the previous batch is in the fryer frying.

IMG_1328 IMG_1328 IMG_1328 IMG_1328Frying, draining & seasoning.  While oil is heating in fryer, line 1-2 baking pans with several layers of paper towels.  With the fryer basket submerged down in the oil, drop plantain chips from one plantain (40-60 chips) into the hot oil in such a manner that each one enters the oil separately (do not place chips directly in fryer basket and then submerge it).  This prevents chips from sticking together.  Close fryer lid and cook 8-9 minutes.  This will render chips crispy to very crispy, and, the chips will tip you off when they're done -- the oil around them will stop sizzling.  Carefully invert basket of chips onto the paper-towel-lined pan, quickly spread chips out in a single layer and give them a generous grind of sea salt.  The chips in the photo represent four plantains.

Please pass Joe's Island Salsa Dip w/my plantain chips:

IMG_2037Coming up with the ideal creamy dip for my plantains required pondering.  Compared to firm-textured tortilla chips, plantain chips, which are firm-textured, are tiny, which means they can't scoop up any type of loose salsa concoction.  That means the dip needs to be creamy, so it will stick to the chip -- the same principal used for the delicate-textured potato chip, except, with fresh, sweet, tropical flavors, instead of savory French onion and garlicy Hidden Valley flavors associated with dips for potato chips.  Meet my Trader Joe's Island Salsa & Sour Cream dip.

IMG_1985 2 IMG_1985 2 IMG_1985 2 IMG_1985 2Two ingredients and a 2:1 ratio.  For ever 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe's Island Salsa, stir in 1 tablespoon sour cream.  Refrigerate for about an hour and serve chilled with plantain chips.

The best green plantain chips w/the best plantain dip:

IMG_2032Try my Sweet & Caramelized Island-Spiced Yellow Plantains too:

IMG_2126Deep-Fried Green Plantain Chips & Island Salsa Dip:  Recipe yields instructions to deep-fry as many crispy green plantain chips as you want and as much island salsa as you need.

Special Equipment List:  paring knife; cutting board; mandolin; deep-fryer; 1-2 baking pans; paper towels

IMG_1236Cook's Note:  I don't cook Caribbean food often, but when I do, it's island-style good.  Thanks to a couple of chef friends, I know just enough about this cuisine to be dangerous without straying from the core flavors. ~ Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/21/2018

~Crunchy Crabmeat Crostini w/Secret Seafood Sauce~

IMG_1870There's nothing like driving back from a trip to the Maryland shore with a few pounds of sweet blue crabmeat in a cooler in the back seat.  The mind races with all the mouthwatering options to enjoy after you pull in the driveway.  While fresh crab is best, happily, high-quality pasteurized crabmeat is available to us all all-year long, which makes my food world a kinder, gentler place. Beer-steaming live crabs and hand-cracking them to pick their meat, is, not a sport I partake in. Ugh.  I don't even enjoy sitting at a crab shack in front of a newspaper-covered tabletop waiting for them to dump a pile of steaming-hot Old-Bay-crusted crabs in front of me. Crabbing itself? Forget about it.  The crabmeat, sans the machinations to get to it, is all that interests me.

I make fantastic Maryland-style crab cake sandwiches, decadent crab Imperial, and, a divine crabmeat quiche.  My crabmeat stuffed omelette a la benedict is exquisite and my crabmeat topped chicken Oscar w/blender bernaise is a show stopper.  Amongst my snacky specialties, crab ballscrabmeat canapés, hot crab dip and crab rangoon, are all family favorites.  

IMG_1872Today I add my crabmeat crostini to KE's crabby selections:

IMG_1592For the crab mixture:

1  large egg, at room temperature

1-2  teaspoons Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce, to taste

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

1  teaspoon Colman's dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1  tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup crushed saltine crackers, crushed not crumbs, about 24 saltines

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, preferably Maryland blue crab, the best available

IMG_1758For the secret sauce:

2  teaspoons each: Frank's RedHot, Worcestershire, Coleman's mustard and Old Bay

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1 cup high-quality mayonnaise

IMG_1780~ Step 1. Whisk all ingredients and chill, 1-2 hours.

Note:  One morning while combining the wet ingredients for my crab cakes, it occurred to me that without the raw egg and bit more mayo, the sauces and spices, in combination with mayo, would be the perfect complementary condiment and/or sandwich topper for my crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches.  After a short period of experimentation and tweaking, this concoction is now affectionately referred to as Mel's Secret Sauce for Seafood and Seafood Sandwiches.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3aaab56200bFor the crostini:

IMG_24091  12-ounce French batard, ends trimmed off, then sliced into 18-20 1/2"-thick slices

Note:  A French batard is first cousin to the baguette.  Batards are shorter than baguettes a bit plumper, and, contain fewer big air pockets, which gives my crostini the perfect surface area for any and all toppings.

IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641~Step 1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, RedHot and Worcestershire.  Whisk in the mayonnaise, followed by the mustard, Old Bay, parsley flakes, sugar and salt.  A creamy and tangy mayonnaise-based sauce will have formed.  FYI:  Skip the egg and incorporate 1/2 cup more mayo and you've got a stellar seafood-sandwich topper.

IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632~Step 2.  Place  saltines in a food storage bag and seal.  Use your fingertips to break crackers into chunky pieces, then, using a rolling pin, process until crushed into small pieces. Fine crumbs aren't desirable, so don't process in a food processor or substitute dry breadcrumbs.

IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653~Step 3.  Fold the crackers into the mayo mixture. Add and gently fold the crabmeat into the cracker mixture until thoroughly combined, doing your best not to mash the lumps out of the crabmeat.  Set crab mixture aside to rest,15-20 minutes.  This rest gives the crackers time to absorb moisture and soften.  You will have about 1 1/2 pounds.

IMG_1809 IMG_1809 IMG_1809 IMG_1809~Step 4.  Get out 2, 12 1/2" x 8 8/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans, or, 2, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans, line them with with parchment and insert a wire rack on top of the parchment in each pan. Arrange the bread slices, 8-10 in each pan.  Slather tops of bread slices with a light coating of secret sauce.  Place 6" underneath preheated broiler until golden, about 3 minutes.

IMG_1820 2 IMG_1820 2 IMG_1820 2 IMG_1820 2~Step 4.  Remove from oven, flip bread slices over and slather second sides with a light coating of secret sauce.  Top each slice with a scant 1 1/2 ounces, (almost 2 tablespoons) of the crab mixture. Return to broiler and cook until golden, about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Once broiled as directed above, remove from oven:

IMG_1829Serve hot, warm or at room temp w/a drizzle of my secret sauce, garnished w/ parsley sprigs & lemon wedges:

IMG_1875Just me & my Maryland blue crabmeat crostini:

IMG_1893Crabmeat Crostini w/Secret Seafood Sauce:  Recipe yields 18-20 appetizers

Special Equipment List:  wire whisk; large rubber spatula; 1-gallon food storage bag; rolling pin; 1-2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 2, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans (the kind with a corrugated bottom, or, 2, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans and 2 wire cooling racks; kitchen scale (optional)

IMG_1696Cook's Note:  My crabmeat crostini recipe, along with the secret sauce, is a spin-off of my Maryland crab cake sandwich recipe.  As we cooks all know, it's not uncommon to turn one dish into two or three slightly different ones.  That said, if your looking for a crab cake sandwich, made the Maryland way, I suggest you try my recipe for ~ My Maryland Crabcake, Tomato & Mayo Sandwich ~.  Got your own favorite crab cake recipe?  By all means, use it to make crostini!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/19/2018

~ Mel's Secret Sauce for Maryland-Style Crab Cakes ~

IMG_1794If you've ever traveled to the areas in and around the Chesapeake Bay (Annapolis and/or Baltimore, Maryland, or, the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area in general), even if you are not a foodie, you can't help but notice that from white-linen restaurants to roadside stands, crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches are everywhere -- more specifically, Maryland blue crab cakes and blue crab sandwiches.  There's more.  If you ask any of the locals where to find the best crab cake or crab cake sandwich, you'll find they are fiercely loyal to their favorite place (and be prepared to listen, because they are going to tell you why), and, you'll rarely get the same answer twice.  For those who live in Maryland, eating Chesapeake blue crab is practically a religion.

I've eaten many crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches in Maryland. I've never encountered one I didn't like.  While all are a bit different, it was their similarities that struck me:  lots and LOTS of sweet, jumbo lump crabmeat with little filler (crushed saltine crackers, not breadcrumbs), a bit of mayo, dry mustard, Worcestershire and Frank's RedHot pepper sauce, and, an egg or two to bind it all together. All contain parsley, none contain celery, onion or bell pepper -- zero.  Most are pan-fried, some are broiled, and they're served on everything from sliced white bread to brioche to chiabatta, with lettuce, tomato and any one of several mayonnaise-based sauces.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c868a637970bSauces for seafood and shellfish in my repertoire include classic cocktail sauce, tangy tarter sauce and Cajun-Creole remoulade sauce.  I love them all, and, while they can't always be used interchangeably, they are appropriate for many appetizer, snack, and sandwich recipes containing crustaceans (crabmeat, shrimp, prawns and lobster) -- lesser so for the mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops).

IMG_1696All that said, one morning, while combining the wet ingredients for my Maryland blue-crab cakes, it occurred to me that without the raw egg and bit more mayo added to it, the sauces and spices used in combination with mayo would be the perfect (meaning:  100% perfect) complementary condiment and/or sandwich topper for my crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches.  After a short period of experimentation and tweaking, this concoction is now affectionately referred to as:

Mel's Secret Sauce for Seafood & Seafood Sandwiches.

IMG_17582  teaspoons Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce, to taste

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2  teaspoons Colman's dry English mustard

2  teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1 cup high-quality mayonnaise, your favorite brand

Note:  Please do not be inclined to add lemon juice to my sauce -- it muddles the flavors. Squeeze a fresh lemon wedge over the finished-dish at the very end to make the flavor "pop".

IMG_1760 IMG_1760 IMG_1760 IMG_1760 IMG_1760~Step 1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the RedHot, Worcestershire, Colman's, Old Bay, sugar and salt.  Add and whisk in parsley flakes and mayonnaise.  Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate until chilled and thickened, 2 hours or overnight.  Served chilled: for dipping, drizzling or slathering, or use as directed in specific recipe.

"The secret's always in the sauce."

IMG_1806It's perfect on my Crunchy Crabmeat Crostini too:

IMG_1872Mel's Secret Sauce for Maryland-Style Crab Cakes:  1 generous cup sauce.

Special Equipment List:  wire whisk; 1-2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b022ad38a0770200dCook's Note:  Cook's Note:  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase big jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day. There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayo-based tartar and remoulade sauces, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise.  I know my mayo: ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread:  Hellmann's vs Duke's ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/17/2018

~ My Maryland Crabcake, Tomato & Mayo Sandwich ~

IMG_1696When I'm in Maine, you'll find me eating a lobster roll with potato chips.  When I'm in Florida, I'll be ordering a blackened mahi-mahi sammie topped with mango salsa.  When I'm at home here in Happy Valley, I'm feasting on Pennsylvania sweet corn, Jersey tomatoes and Maryland crab cakes.  When I enter my kitchen carrying a few fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes, the first thing I do is grab the Hellmann's, get out the Sunbeam and make a good old-fashioned tomato and mayo sandwich.  As much as I adore this down-home Summer indulgence, there is one thing I like more:  a tomato-and-mayo sandwich with a big, fat, freshly-fried Maryland-style crab cake on it. Serve it up with a cob of in-season Pennsylvania sweet corn -- baby, I'm in foodie heaven.

If you've ever traveled to the areas in and around the Chesapeake Bay (Annapolis and/or Baltimore, Maryland, or, the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area in general), even if you are not a foodie, you can't help but notice that from white-linen restaurants to roadside stands, crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches are everywhere -- more specifically, Maryland blue crab cakes and blue crab sandwiches.  There's more.  If you ask any of the locals where to find the best crab cake or crab cake sandwich, you'll find they are fiercely loyal to their favorite place (and be prepared to listen, because they are going to tell you why), and, you'll rarely get the same answer twice.  For those who live in Maryland, eating Chesapeake blue crab is practically a religion.

IMG_1698I've eaten many crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches in Maryland. I've never encountered one I didn't like.  While all are a bit different, it's their  similarities that struck me:  lots of sweet, jumbo lump crabmeat with little filler (saltine crackers, not breadcrumbs), a bit of mayo, dry mustard, Worcestershire and Frank's RedHot pepper sauce, and, an egg or two to bind it all together. All contain parsley, none contain celery, onion or bell pepper -- zero. Most are pan-fried, some are broiled, and they're served on everything from sliced white bread to brioche to chiabatta, with lettuce, tomato and a mayo-based sauce.

6a0120a8551282970b017d3c043c34970cFaidley's is a seafood restaurant in Baltimore's Lexington Market.  This still-family run business was founded by John Faidley, Sr. in 1886, making it one of the oldest in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Via a tip from a local, Joe and I wandered in there in 1996.  I ordered the crab cake sandwich and it was love at first bite -- the best one I'd ever tasted.  Imagine my glee when I found out that if you ask, they'll give you a copy of the recipe (nowadays, it's on the internet).  It seems their crab cakes are so popular, to prevent copycats from sharing inferior versions, they simply hand out their real-deal recipe.

For four big, fat, freshly-fried Maryland-style crab cakes:

IMG_1592For the crab cakes:

1  large egg, at room temperature

1-2  teaspoons Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce, to taste

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

1  teaspoon Colman's dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1  tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup crushed saltine crackers, crushed not crumbs, about 24 saltines

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, preferably Maryland blue crab, the best available

corn or peanut oil oil, for frying crab cakes

IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641~Step 1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, RedHot and Worcestershire.  Whisk in the mayonnaise, followed by the mustard, Old Bay, parsley flakes, sugar and salt.  A creamy and tangy mayonnaise-based sauce will have formed.  FYI:  Skip the egg and incorporate 1/2 cup more mayo and you've got a stellar seafood-sandwich topper.

IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632~Step 2.  Place  saltines in a food storage bag and seal.  Use your fingertips to break crackers into chunky pieces, then, using a rolling pin, process until crushed into small pieces. When making crab cakes, fine crumbs aren't desirable, so don't be inclined to use a food processor.

IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653~Step 3.  Fold the crackers into the mayo mixture. Add and gently fold the crabmeat into the cracker mixture until thoroughly combined, doing your best not to mash the lumps out of the crabmeat.  Set crab cake mixture aside to rest,15-20 minutes.

Note:  This rest period gives the crackers time to absorb moisture and soften, which is "the glue" that holds the crab cakes together.  You will have about 1 1/2 pounds of total crab cake mixture.

IMG_1668 IMG_1668 IMG_1668 IMG_1668~Step 4.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment. Divide crab mixture into four parts. Using a kitchen scale, they'll be 6-ounces each. Form crab cakes by hand, into 3/1/2-4"-round discs, by gently but firmly compressing them between palms of hands.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight.  Do not remove from refrigerator prior to frying.  Just prior to frying the crab cakes (as directed in the next step), prep the garnishes (as listed below).

IMG_1682 IMG_1682 IMG_1682 IMG_1682~Step 5.  Place 1/8" of corn or peanut oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the crab cakes and fry, until golden brown on both sides, turning only once, about 3-3 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and rest, about 3-4 minutes prior to serving hot.

For four crab cake sandwiches & the assembly: 

IMG_1596For the crab cake sandwiches:

8  slices Wonder-type sandwich bread, super fresh, 2 per sandwich

8  large, soft Bibb lettuce leaves, 2 per sandwich

4-8  large, thick, slices of garden-fresh tomatoes, 1-2 per sandwich depending upon the size of the tomato

4  large, 3 1/2"-4"-round crab cakes, from above recipe, 1 per sandwich

mayonnaise, for drizzling, dolloping or slathering, your favorite brand

4  sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish

4  lemon wedges, for garnish and a spritz of lemon juice

sweet corn, for a highly-recommended accompaniment (optional)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, assemble the sandwiches and serve accompanied by sweet corn.

Nothing fancy.  Just fantastic.

IMG_1700Here's lookin' at 'cha:

IMG_1719Try my Crunchy Crabmeat Crostini w/Secret Seafood Sauce too:

IMG_1872Mel's Crab Cake, Tomato & Mayonnaise Sandwich:  4 large Maryland-style crab cake sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  wire whisk; large rubber spatula; 1-gallon food storage bag; rolling pin; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; kitchen scale; plastic wrap; 12" nonstick skillet; spatula; paper towels; cutting board; serrated tomato knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d297c03f970cCook's Note:  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase big jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day. There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayo-based tartar and remoulade sauces, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise.  I know my mayo: ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread:  Hellmann's vs Duke's ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/15/2018

~My Texican Huevos Rancheros Taco Boat Breakfast~

IMG_1517Classically, soft-yolked fried eggs, served atop a lightly-fried corn tortilla, accompanied by a scoop of creamy refried beans, then drizzled with a cooked tomato-and-chile-pepper sauce (not fresh salsa), is known as: huevos rancheros.  Simple, straightforward and scrumptious, ranch eggs, rancher's eggs or ranch-style eggs was the typical big, bold stick-to-the-ribs start to the long, laborious dawn-to-dusk workdays of cattle ranchers and ranch hands throughout the wide-open cattle-grazing spaces of Mexico and the American Southwest.  It wasn't fancy, it was filling.

Huevos Rancheros = ingredients on-hand in a ranch kitchen.

IMG_1505As long as one can cook an egg, this dish is easy, as, sans the eggs, everything can be made ahead.  If you're Texican or cook Tex-Mex fare consistently, all the components are already in your kitchen.  The eggs are typically fried, sunny-side-up or over-easy, but poached are dreamy too.  Why? When you cut into breakfast, the yolk flows like lava into the rest of the meal.  If yolk lava doesn't float your boat, request or order Huevos Mexicana and "Cookie"* (see note below) will substitute scrambled eggs.

IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578Corn tortillas are classic, but flour tortillas are popular too (especially with me), and, I'm using recently-invented stand-and-stuff flour tortilla boats today -- past adorable, they're practical (the boat/bowl-shape holds everything together), and, they're convenient (easy to portion and serve).  That said, when using taco boats, because of their compact size, I fry my eggs in ring molds, in order to corral them (to prevent them from spreading out across the skillet).  Spray the skillet and the inside of the rings with no-stick cooking spray, crack 1 large egg into each ring, then fry to desired degree of doneness.  Remove rings and season with sea salt and sriracha seasoning. Serve ASAP.

*Note:  The ranch's kitchen manager and/or mobile chuck-wagon cook was usually nicknamed “Cookie”. He was almost always a he, as he performed multiple heavy-duty tasks to meet the everyday needs of the ranch and/or its camp site du jour.  Additionally, he was second or third in command of the outfit, behind the ranch owner or his trail boss.  Due to his importance, the cook was paid about $45 - $50 per month -- the wranglers and cow punchers received $25 - $30 while on the trail, and much less (sometimes half pay) when working the ranch between cattle drives.

IMG_1531Huevos Rancheros = tortillas, eggs, refritos, chili sauce.

Back then, electricity and refrigeration hadn't been invented, and even afterward, it took years for either to reach remote locals.  Staples common to a well-stocked ranch kitchen and chuck wagon were limited to items that stored and traveled well -- in both cases, for long periods of time in a harsh environment.  Larders contained cured meats (bacon and ham), lard, onions and potatoes, dried beans, corn, peppers and fruit, uncooked rice and masa harina (corn flour), coffee beans, vinegar, and, sugar, salt and pepper.  As for the incredible, edible, protein-packed egg: chickens wandered around on every ranch -- and Cookie took his best laying hens along on every journey.

IMG_1554I like salsa fresca (uncooked salsa) as much as the next person, but, when I'm making huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) for breakfast or brunch, or, a Mexican-style drowned torta (a sandwich drenched in sauce) for lunch or dinner, I make an all-purpose Mexican-style sauce with a thick, semi-chunky consistency and a smokey, spicy, complex flavor, meaning: a cooked tomato & chile chili sauce that can be served hot or warm.  It's also a 15-20 minute quick-to-make sauce using pantry and refrigerator staples.

IMG_7888Refried beans are required.  I use my recipe for Creamy, Cheesy & E-Z Chile-Lime Refried Bean Dip. Mixed with a can of diced green chiles, salsa verde, lime juice, Mexican crema, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper Jack cheese, canned refried beans never tasted so good.  Prepare them as I direct, reheat them gently in the microwave, then dollop them on the huevos rancheros at serving time. These couldn't be any easier.

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200cFancy fresh garnishes or perishable appointments are not required. Cooking, in the days prior to electricity and refrigeration, was indeed a sport.  All the yummy stuff we can load atop our huevos rancheros today (grated cheese, guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce, minced cilantro, lime wedges and freshly-diced avocado and tomatoes, etc.), even if available to them, was impossible to store or transport.  That said Mexican-Style Adobo Rice is a fine addition to this manly breakfast -- it too loves to be bathed in egg yolk and a drizzle of tomato-chile sauce.

On each plate, in the following order, decoratively arrange:

IMG_1500corn or flour tortillas, or, individual-sized taco boats/bowls, 1 tortilla or 2 mini-sized boats/bowls per serving

soft-yolked fried or over-easy eggs, hot out of the skillet, 1-2 eggs per serving

Mexican-style refried beans, ready and warm, from above recipe, 1/4-1/2-3/4 cups per serving

Mexican-style adobo rice, ready and warm, from above recipe, for accompaniment, 1/4-1/2-3/4 cup per serving (optional)

Mexican-style tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce, ready and warm, from above recipe, for drizzling or dipping, 2-4 tablespoons per serving

Bibb lettuce leaves, avocado and tomato slices, lime wedges and minced cilantro, because they look pretty and taste great with this mouth-watering breakfast 

"Come & get it while it's hot, then break an egg...

IMG_1540... & pass the spicy tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce."

IMG_1563My Mexican Huevos Rancheros Taco Boat Breakfast:  Recipe yields instructions to prepare 12 servings tortilla-sized huevos rancheros, or, 12 servings of mini-taco bowl/boats.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; appropriately-sized skillet or saucepan for frying, poaching or scrambling eggs

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1870f13970cCook's Note:  If you were a cowboy on a cattle drive, whatever you ate for breakfast had to be substantial and the Denver omelette is another protein-packed morning meal.  For a home-home-on-the-range, more-modern-day breakfast, ~ My Kinda Cowboy Breakfast:   The Denver Omelette ~, is a must-try.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/12/2018

~ Mexican-Style Tomato & Chipotle-Chile Chili Sauce ~

IMG_1554I like salsa fresca (uncooked salsa) as much as the next person, but, when I'm making huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) for breakfast or brunch, or, a Mexican-style drowned torta (a sandwich drenched in sauce) for lunch or dinner, I make an all-purpose Mexican-style sauce with a thick, semi-chunky consistency and a smokey, spicy, complex flavor, meaning: a cooked sauce that can be served hot or warm.  My 15-20 minute quick-to-make sauce uses on-hand pantry and refrigerator staples.  Why?  Tick, tock.  The people I know wake up hungry -- they don't want to wait or watch me stand around simmering sauce, and, the same can be said for anyone looking forward to a super-special hot sandwich with plenty of "gravy" on it for lunch or dinner.

I'll point out that using dried chile powders and dried chili powders in the home kitchen, in place of fresh and/or dried chile peppers is very convenient, and, if used corrrectly, compromises much less than the chile-pepper-police want you to believe.  That said, it helps to know what you are buying, and to know that, you need to check the spelling.  Once you know what the spelling means, you'll know what it is and what is in it, and that means knowing your e's from you i's:

6a0120a8551282970b017d4140a67a970cCHILE:  Spelled with an"e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family.

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (like chili con carne).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with and "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of ground, dried spices (for example:  cumin, garlic, onion) and chile powder, meaning:  the manufacturer has added spices to the chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

Not typos:  My quick & easy tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce:

IMG_14522  tablespoons corn oil

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  teaspoon ancho chile pepper

3/4  teaspoon Mexican-style oregano

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

2  whole chipotle chile peppers packed in adobo, plus 1-2 tablespoons sauce from can, to taste

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stems are ok

IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat the corn oil over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion, pressed garlic, ancho chile pepper, Mexican-style oregano, ground cumin, sugar and salt.  Give the ingredients a thorough stir.  Adjust the heat to sauté gently, until onion is softened, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 2.  Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, two whole chipotle chiles and 1 tablespoon sauce from can of peppers.  Stir to combine and adjust heat to simmer gently and steadily, 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then taste.  For more heat, add another tablespoon sauce from chipotles.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 3.  Stir in the minced cilantro, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Turn the heat off or remove from heat completely.  With the aid of a stick blender (also called an immersion blender), process the sauce to semi-chunky texture.  If you do not have a stick blender and are using a conventional blender, cool the sauce 1 hour prior to processing.  Transfer sauce to food storage container(s) and keep stored in refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave.  Sauce freezes well.

"Break an egg, but before you do (huevos rancheros)...

IMG_1517... please pass the tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce." 

IMG_1563Mexican-Style Tomato & Chipotle-Chile Chili Sauce:  Recipe yields 3 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; 1 1/2-2 quart saucepan; hand-held stick blender or conventional blender; appropriately-sized food storage container(s).

6a0120a8551282970b0223c84786a7200cCook's Note:  In Spanish, "ahogada" means "drowned", "drenched" or "drunk".  Culinarily it refers to a super-spicy, tawny-red sauce that gets poured over Mexican-style chopped, sliced or shredded, beef, pork, chicken or shrimp "tortas" ("sandwiches").  This working-mans-lunch is served on a semi-firm bolillo roll, in a bowl, "bien ahogada", "well drowned" (immersed end-to-end). For a smooth-textured, bold-flavored Mexican-style cooked sauce specific to one torta: ~ Ahogada Sauce for Mexican Drowned Sandwiches ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/09/2018

~ Sweet & Hot Chili-Sauced Thai-Style Fried Chicken ~

IMG_1416Oh-My-Thai-style snacky-type appetizers.  Truth told, I could easily make a meal out of these, and, frankly so could every person I've ever served them to -- every sweet-heat-seeking man, woman and child (every last one of them).  Every now and then I get a hankering for fried-chicken -- the good old-fashioned batter-dipped and deep-fried kind -- crunchy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside.  When the hankering hits, I've just gotta have it.  What could be better?  

Fried chicken with all the bold, bright flavors of Thailand.

IMG_1344Winner, winner Thai-style sweet & hot red chili sauce.

Simply irresistible indeed.  This is perhaps my favorite of all the Thai-style condiments I use for dipping and drizzling.  Next to spicy and slightly-salty peanut sauce, I could and do put it on and add it to almost anything Thai.  I got my first taste of sweet and hot Thai chili sauce (Mae Ploy) back in the 1990's and it rocked my food world.  That's why there's always sweet chili sauce in my refrigerator, and, I won't lie, it's often store-bought.  That said, sweet chili sauce is not hard to make.  If you're a purist, or simply curious, you should try making it at home at least at least once.

6a0120a8551282970b017ee7c78f95970d3/4  cup sugar

1/2  cup rice vinegar

1/4  cup water

1  tablespoon pressed garlic, about 4 large cloves run through a press, or 1 tablespoon store-bought garlic paste

1  tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1  tablespoon cornstarch, stirred together with:

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1  tablespoon cold water

IMG_1350 IMG_1350 IMG_1350 IMG_1350~Step 1.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar and water.  Just stir long enough to combine, not to dissolve the sugar completely (that will come later).  Set aside.  Run the garlic through a press and set aside.  Stir together the cornstarch, fish sauce and cold water.  Set aside.

IMG_1354 IMG_1354 IMG_1354 IMG_1354 IMG_1354~Step 2.  Bring sugar mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until  sugar is dissolved.  Add and stir in the pressed garlic and crushed red pepper.  Adjust heat (lower it a bit), to a steady simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 1 full minute.  Re-stir the cornstarch mixture.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer (lower it more) and drizzle in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until nicely thickened, about 30-60 seconds.  Remove from heat, cover the saucepan, and set aside 15-30 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a70199200bNote:  Homemade chili sauce made the way I'm making it today, using red pepper flakes, is not as red colored as the mass-produced, pasteurized, store-bought. That's because store-bought sweet chili sauce is made using loads of pulverized, bright-red, pickled, Thai bird chile peppers. Some recipes instruct to add Sriracha sauce to achieve the red color, but I find that product to vinegary for this culinary application.  For me, 4 drops of red food coloring works perfectly.

~ Step 3.  Transfer to a food storage container, cool to room temperature and store in refrigerator.

IMG_1392Winner, winner Thai-style marinated chicken tenderloins:

IMG_1043For the marinade:

2-4  pounds whole, boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, about 10-20 large tenderloins, each tenderloin sliced into 4-5 nugget-sized pieces.

1/4  cup each:  honey, lime juice, &, Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons each: Thai fish sauce & sesame oil

1  tablespoon each:  garlic paste & ginger paste

1 teaspoon Sriracha seasoning blend

IMG_1050 IMG_1050 IMG_1050 IMG_1050~Step 1.  Slice each chicken tenderloin into 4-5 nuggets, placing them in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Even size = even cooking time, so decide, up front, on 5 smaller or 4 larger sized nuggets and cut every tenderloin the same way.  Place ingredients for marinade in a 1-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid and a pourer top, then vigorously shake to combine. Pour all  marinade into bag of chicken.  Seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours, overnight or up to two days. Remove from refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours prior to deep-frying. Clip a hole in the corner of the bag, then drain and discard all excess marinade out of the bag.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35bca62200cWinner, winner Thai-style batter-dipped, deep-fried chicken:

IMG_1396For the dry dredge, drizzly batter & crunchy coating:

1  cup pancake mix, for dredging

1 1/2 cup pancake mix, for batter

1  14-ounce can coconut milk

1/2  cups beer, your favorite brand (club soda may be substituted)

2-4  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce, to taste

8 ounces panko breadcrumbs or sweetened flaked coconut, or a combination of both

all of the marinated chicken nuggets, from above recipe, drained of all excess marinade

IMG_1284 2Small bowl containing 1 cup dry pancake mix.

Medium bowl containing 1 1/2 cups pancake mix whisked with 1 can coconut milk, 1/2 cup beer and 2-4 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste.

An 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 8-ounces panko or coconut or a combination of both.

Deep-fryer w/corn or peanut oil heated to 360º according to manufacturer's specifications.

Misc:  3-minute timer, fork, spoon, wire cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1771171970cStep 1. To make the batter, whisk together the pancake mix, coconut milk, beer and soy sauce. Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency.  If batter is too thick, or at any point the batter gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer to maintain a drizzly consistency.  If the batter seems too thin, whisk in 1-2-4 tablespoons pancake mix.

IMG_1287 IMG_1287 IMG_1287 IMG_1287 IMG_1287 IMG_1287 IMG_1287~Step 2.  Working in batches of 5-6 nuggets at a time, dredge each in the dry pancake mix to coat on all sides. Note:  I work and fry 5 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it.  With the aid of a fork, move up the assembly line and dip each nugget into the batter. As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  After dipping each nugget, place it into the dish of panko or coconut or a combo of both.  With the aid of a spoon, coat nuggets in the panko/coconut/combo.

IMG_1303 IMG_1303 IMG_1303 IMG_1303~Step 3.  Carefully place nuggets in fryer basket, then lower basket down into the hot, 360° oil. Close lid and fry at 360º for 5-6 minutes (5 minutes for smaller cut nuggets, 6 minutes for larger cut nuggets.  Lift  basket of golden nuggets out of fryer and allow a few seconds for excess oil to drip back into the fryer.  Invert the basket onto a wire rack that has been placed atop a few layers of paper towels -- using tongs is a mistake, as it's an easy way to damage their crust.  Season each batch of nuggets with a light grinding of sea salt the moment they are inverted onto the rack. Repeat the dredging, dipping and coating process until all fingers are deep fried.  Serve hot (almost immediately), warm (within 30 minutes), or at room temperature (within 1 hour).  There's more:  trust me when I tell you, nuggets will remain crunchy well past the six hour mark.

IMG_1338Winner, winner Thai-style golden-nuggets chicken dinner: 

IMG_1434Sweet & Hot Chili-Sauced Thai-Style Fried Chicken:  Recipe yields 1 cup sweet chili sauce.

Special Equipment List: garlic press; 1-quart saucepan w/lid; spoon; 1-cup food storage container w/tight fitting lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag;

6a0120a8551282970b022ad361697b200cCook's Note:  Peanut sauce is common to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa.  The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar. Pulverized spices (red chiles, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and/or lemongrass, are also added. Purchase it, but, it's so easy to make, I don't know why you would. Try my ~ Thai-Style Spicy Peanut Sauce for Poultry or Pork ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/07/2018

~Simply Irresistible: Sweet Heat Thai Red Chili Sauce~

IMG_1392Simply irresistible indeed.  This is perhaps my favorite of all the Thai-style condiments I use for dipping and drizzling.  Next to spicy and slightly-salty peanut sauce, I could and do put it on and add it to almost anything Thai.  I got my first taste of sweet and hot Thai chili sauce (Mae Ploy) back in the 1990's and it rocked my food world.  That's why there's always sweet chili sauce in my refrigerator, and, I won't lie, it's often store-bought.  That said, sweet chili sauce is not hard to make.  If you're a purist, or simply curious, you should try making it at home at least at least once.

Simply irresistible, &, it only takes about 5 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a70199200bNote:  Homemade chili sauce made the way I'm making it today, using red pepper flakes, is not as red colored as the mass-produced, pasteurized, store-bought. That's because store-bought sweet chili sauce is made using loads of pulverized, bright-red, pickled, Thai bird chile peppers. Some recipes instruct to add Sriracha sauce to achieve the red color, but I find that product to vinegary for this culinary application.  For me, 4 drops of red food coloring works perfectly.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3873ad5200d3/4  cup sugar

1/2  cup rice vinegar

1/4  cup water

1  tablespoon pressed garlic, about 4 large cloves run through a press, or, 1 tablespoon store-bought garlic paste

1  tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1  tablespoon cornstarch, stirred together with:

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1  tablespoon cold water

IMG_1350 IMG_1350 IMG_1350 IMG_1350~Step 1.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar and water.  Just stir long enough to combine, not to dissolve the sugar completely (that will come later).  Set aside.  Run the garlic through a press and set aside.  Stir together the cornstarch, fish sauce and cold water.  Set aside.

IMG_1354 IMG_1354 IMG_1354 IMG_1369 IMG_1369~Step 2.  Bring sugar mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.  Add and stir in the pressed garlic and crushed red pepper.  Adjust heat (lower it a bit), to a steady simmer and cook, stirring constantly for 1 full minute.  Re-stir the cornstarch mixture.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer (lower it more) and drizzle in the cornstarch slurry.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until nicely thickened, about 30-60 seconds.  Remove from heat, cover the saucepan, and set aside 15-30 minutes.

Transfer to a pretty container, cool, then store in refrigerator.

IMG_1402It's divine drizzled on my Thai-style fried chicken nuggets:

IMG_1419Simply Irresistible:  Sweet Heat Thai Red Chili Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 cup.

Special Equipment List:  garlic press; ramekin; spoon; 1-quart saucepan w/lid; 1-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c85cd7d5970bCook's Note:  Peanut sauce is common to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa.  The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar. Pulverized spices (red chiles, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and/or lemongrass, are also added. Purchase it?  It's so easy to make, I don't know why you would.  Try my ~ Thai-Style Spicy Peanut Sauce for Poultry or Pork ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/05/2018

~Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties~

IMG_1236One patty.  That's all it took.  A succulent, superbly-spiced, slightly-saucy shredded-meat mixture encased in a flaky, yellow-orange-tinged pie pastry -- similar to any savory turnover ("hand-pie"). It was simply divine, meaning a simple concept with complex flavor.  Fortunately, I found out after-the-fact it was prepared with finely-shredded goat meat -- back in my younger days, more likely than not, had I noticed the goats roasting on the spits to the rear of the building, I wouldn't have tried it. That said, a very nice woman at a Caribbean festival in the area of New York City offered me a Jamaican patty.  I took it, I ate the entire thing, and I loved every crumbly, succulent bite.

IMG_1245My patty encounter was in the early 1980's.  Jamaicans brought recipes for patties to the Southern port cities of the USA, and then to us Yankee's in the 1960's and 1970's, when they came to work as hospital orderlies, home health aides and nurses.  Generically referred to as "a patty", "patties" were popularized in restaurants in the New York Metropolitan Area (which had/has a large West Indian population). Prior to that, patties were the product of colonialism. The curry-laced Cornish pasty, a somewhat bland meat-filled pastry (associated with Cornwall, United Kingdom), was introduced to the peoples of the Caribbean Islands.  In turn, the pasty was introduced to the heat of the native-to-Jamaica, Scotch bonnet pepper and a few aromatic spices.

Today, August 5th, is National Jamaican patty day.

ThThroughout the Caribbean, "patties" are a staple, and depending on which country or island they are from or made on, the pastry crusts and the meat fillings (beef, goat, lamb, pork, chicken, fish or seafood) differ quite a bit.  Some crusts are baked, others are fried, and still others are more puff-pastry like than pie-dough like.  Some pastries contain lard, some contain shortening, others contain butter, and most contain curry powder (which contains turmeric) for color and flavor.  Some fillings are spicy hot, others are subdued and bland, and still others are spicy with a sweet edge to them.  There's more. Some fillings use ground meat, others use minced meat, and still others use shredded meat.

Part One:  Making shredded beef (not ground beef). 

I'm referring to my beef patties as Caribbean-style, because I've never been to Jamaica, nor am I in personal contact with any Jamaican chefs.  I'm preparing my patties to my liking, based on the patties I have tasted -- some of which I liked, others, not so much -- and that means I'm using some moist, succulent, long-simmered, shredded beef in place of store-bought and sautéed American ground meat.  Yes, ground meat versions are much easier to prepare, and, in fact, most Jamaican-Jamaican recipes instruct to use it.  That said, my first experience with a Jamaican meat patty contained almost-juicy shredded goat meat, and, the texture was succulent -- so much so, in good conscience, I cannot bring myself to use ground beef.  You can thank me later.

IMG_0906For the shredded beef mixture:

4-4 1/4  pounds 1"-1 1'2" lean beef cubes, trimmed from 6 1/2-7 pounds beef chuck roast

1  very large, whole, peeled sweet onion (12-16 ounces)

4  large garlic cloves

1/2  ounce bunch fresh thyme sprigs

8  whole allspice

2  whole bay leaves

8  whole cloves

1  tablespoons sea salt

1/4  teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper powder

10 cups beef stock

IMG_0883 IMG_0883 IMG_0883 IMG_0883~Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, cube the chuck roast, trimming and removing the large pockets of fat as you work.  There will be about 4 pounds of lean, slightly-marbled beef cubes.

IMG_0908 IMG_0908~ Step 2.  Place the fresh thyme sprigs, whole allspice, bay leaves and cloves atop a small, 6"-8" length of cheesecloth.  Gather the cheesecloth up around the herbs and spices.  Using kitchen twine, tie, secure and clip the bundle closed.

IMG_0913 IMG_0913 IMG_0913 IMG_0913 IMG_0913 IMG_0938~Step 3.  Place the beef cubes in an 8-quart stockpot along with the onion, garlic cloves, bouquet garni (bundle of herbs and spices), sea salt and Scotch bonnet pepper powder.  Add the beef stock.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally with a large spoon.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, 2 hours. Remove from heat, cover pot and allow meat to steep in the broth for 1 hour.

IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941 IMG_0941~Step 4.  Line the bottom of a large bowl with several layers of paper towels.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the beef from the stockpot to the bowl.  Allow the paper towels in the bowl time to absorb all the excess liquid from the beef, 15-20 minutes.  Remove the paper towels, then, using fingertips, fine shred the beef cubes.

Note:  Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the broth, to use as directed below.  The remainder, about 2 quarts, is perfectly-seasoned and ready to use in any Carribbean-style recipe that requires beef stock.

Part Two:  Making shredded-beef patty filling.

IMG_1064

6  cups shredded beef, from above recipe

1 1/2  cups hot beef stock, divided (1 cup + 1/2 cup), from above recipe

1  cup raisins

4  tablespoons Jamaican Pickapeppa steak sauce

1  teaspoon sugar

6  tablespoons achiote vegetable oil (vegetable oil colored with annatto)

4  tablespoons hot Jamaican-style curry powder

1/4  teaspoon each (I use a generous 1/4 teaspoon each):  ground allspice, ground cloves, ground thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper powder

1 1/2-2  cups finely-diced sweet onion

6  large, whole, garlic cloves, run through a press

2-4-6 tablespoons French-style breadcrumbs (optional and only if needed)*

*Note:  I add no bread crumbs, and, if you follow my recipe you won't need them.  That said, for those who make substitutions (you know who you are -- you don't follow a recipe, then you complain it doesn't work), if you end up with a soupy filling, stir in some bread crumbs to thicken it.

IMG_0922 IMG_0922 IMG_0922 IMG_0922 IMG_0953 IMG_1086~Step 1.  Place 1 cup raisins in 1-2-cup heatproof measuring container.  Ladle 1 cup of the hot beef stock over the raisins and set aside to steep for 30-45 minutes, to plump and soften them.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer raisins to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.  Set aside.  To the remaining raisin liquid, stir in 4 tablespoons Pickapeppa steak sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar and enough beef stock to total 1 cup.  Set aside. 

IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069 IMG_1069~Step 2.  In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, heat the 6 tablespoons achiote oil over medium heat and stir in the curry powder, ground allspice, cloves, thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper powder. Add the onion and garlic, adjust heat to medium-high and sauce gently until onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the soaked raisins and continue to cook, stirring almost constantly until raisins are steaming, 30-60 seconds.

IMG_1091 IMG_1091 IMG_1091 IMG_1091 IMG_1091 IMG_1091~Step 3.  Reduce heat to low.  Stir in the warm or room temp shredded beef -- do this in 2-cup increments and give each addition time, 1-2 minutes, to heat up.  Once all the beef has been incorporated, turn heat off, cover pot, and allow the filling to steep on the still warm stovetop, about an hour, to give the flavors time to marry.

Step Three:  Making the flaky, curried pie pastry.

IMG_11045  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

4  tablespoons Jamaican-style hot curry powder

2  teaspoons salt

2  teaspoons sugar

12  ounces cold salted butter (3 sticks)

4  ounces cold butter-flavored shortening

1  cup cold water

2  tablespoons white vinegar

IMG_1109 IMG_1109 IMG_1113~ Step 1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, curry power, sugar and salt.  Set aside.  Using a chef's knife, cube the butter and cut the shortening into large pieces.  Return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  In a 1-cup measuring container, combine the water and vinegar.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

IMG_1121 IMG_1121 IMG_1121 IMG_1121 IMG_1135 IMG_1135 IMG_1135 IMG_1135~Step 2.  Place the flour mixture and the chilled butter-and-shortening pieces in the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor that has been fitted with the steel blade.  Using a series of 16-18 rapid on-off pulses, cut the shortening into the flour.  The mixture will look light and dry and resemble tiny, irregular flakes and crumbs.  Add 8 tablespoons of the acidulated cold water and process in 3-4 rapid-on off pulses.  Stop and feel the pastry.  It should be just damp enough to mass together but will not have formed a ball in the processor.  If necessary, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, processing for just an instant, 1-2 pulses after each addition -- I used 18 tablespoons today.  Gather the rough dough up, being careful not to touch the sharp steel blade.

IMG_1145 IMG_1145 IMG_1145 IMG_1145 IMG_1145 IMG_1145 IMG_1145~Step 3.  Using a kitchen scale, divide dough into 6 parts, 8 ounces each, form each into a ball, then a disc.  Dust each of 6, 8"-9" light-weight disposable or reusable plates with bit of bench flour, then dust the top of each disc. Use a small roller to roll each pastry across the bottom of plate, stack the plates, wrap them in plastic and refrigerator 2 hours or overnight.  Tip from Mel:  This is a great way to refrigerate and/or freeze pastry because it comes to room temperature and/or thaws quicker, 15-30 minutes.

Part Four:  Rolling, filling & baking the patties.

IMG_1215Mise en place -- the French words for "everything in place", meaning:  prep all of your ingredients and gather all of your hardware before starting any cooking or baking process.  When it comes to rolling, filling and baking Jamaican patties successfully, they are words to live by.  Read the following instructions, a few times if necessary.  Picture in your mind how my method of removing the pastries from the refrigerator, one-at-a-time, at a designated time in the process, keeps the assembly line of rolling, filling and baking moving at all times.  It also keeps the pastry at the perfect, manageable temperature the entire time -- no sticking, ripping or tearing.  Never underestimate the power of organization, get your act together, and enjoy the process:  

IMG_1170 IMG_1170 IMG_1170~ Step 1.  Before rolling, filling and baking:  ready a large pastry board and line 3, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans with parchment (enough to bake 32 patties in 6 batches of 6 patties each, with time for each pan to cool to room temperature in between batches -- do not place filled patties on a warm pan).  Ready your favorite rolling pin, a 5"-round pastry cutter and about 1 cup of bench flour.  In a small ramekin, prepare the egg wash by beating 1 large egg with 2 tablespoons water, then, get out a pastry brush.

IMG_1173 IMG_1173 IMG_1173 IMG_1173 IMG_1173~Step 2.  Remove one plate of pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature, to soften, about 15 minutes.  Spread some bench flour on the pastry board, place the pastry atop the flour and roll it into a rectangular shape, about 13"L x 6"D and about 1/8"-thick.  Use the pastry cutter to cut out two circles, gather up the scraps, then, between the palms of your hands form the scraps into another disk and set it aside.  Prior to filling the first two pastry circles, remove another plate of pastry from the refrigerator to soften for 15 minutes, and keep repeating this process until all of the pastries are filled and baked as follows:

IMG_1185 IMG_1185 IMG_1185 IMG_1185~Step 3.  Dollop a generous 2 tablespoons of shredded beef filling on one half of each pastry. Use your fingertips to form the meat mixture into an oval shaped mound.  Using a pastry brush, paint a bit of egg wash around the perimeter of the pastry.  Lift the empty half of the pastry up and over the mounded meat, to form a half moon shape, then gently press down on the edges with the pad of your fingertip.  After the edges are sealed with the fingertip, form a decorative edge by lightly pressing the tines of a fork around the half moon, being careful not to poke holes in the pastry.

IMG_1201 IMG_1201~ Step 4.  As you work, gently transfer pastries to prepared baking pan, six on a pan per batch, continuing to roll the disc of scraps until six pastries are on the baking pan.  Lightly paint the tops of patties with egg wash and bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven, 28-30 minutes until light golden.  Remove from oven and use a thin spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes prior to serving.  The 18 patties in this picture represent three plates (half) of pastry dough and about three cups (half) of the shredded beef filling (both of which, dough and filling, can be frozen and used to fill 18 patties on another day).

Cool on wire rack about 5 minutes prior to serving freshly-made & warm: 

IMG_1213That's about as flaky as a shredded-beef patty pastry can be:

IMG_1248Don't Worry, Be Happy:  Jamaican-Style Beef Patties:  Recipe yields 6 cups shredded-beef filling  and 3 pounds pastry dough/enough to fill 32 "pop-tart-sized" beef patties.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; cheese cloth; kitchen shears; kitchen twine; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; large slotted spoon; paper towels; 1-2-cup measuring container; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; large spoon; large-capacity food processor; kitchen scale; plastic wrap; pastry board; rolling pin; pastry brush; 3, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans; parchment paper; thin metal spatula; wire cooling rack  

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e39d91970bCook's Note:  Every country and culture has their own type of savory, meat-filled pastry.  In the case of the Eastern European bierock, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Unlike pizza, hot dog, hamburger and taco, the word bierock conjures up no image in the mind of many foodies.  It's worth mention there is no mention of it in The Food Lover's Companion or The Oxford Companion to Food.  The ~ Bierock: A Savory  Meat, Cabbage & Onion Turnover ~.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/02/2018

~ Peanut Butter-Banana-Oat & Trail Mix Quick Bread ~

IMG_1003I'd love to tout this scrumptious breakfast treat as healthy -- I suppose in some oaty-grain fruit-and-nut-land sort of way it is, so, if that convinces you to give this recipe a try, I can live with that -- in the meantime, I'll just proclaim it to be a somewhat healthier option to most other sweets found in bakeries and coffeeshops (especially since my favorite way to indulge in a slice of this bread is toaster-oven-toasted and slathered with a touch of softened salted butter).  Just yum.

A bit about quick bread:  "Quick bread" is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time.  It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high.  Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast.  Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately double-acting baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda.  In the case of baking powder, it is called "double acting" because the rising process starts the moment it makes contact with the liquids, and, gives a second burst of rising power when the bread enters the hot oven.  Typically, quick breads contain eggs, flour, salt and fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil) and leavening.  That said, they can be sweet or savory and contain sugar, fruits, fruit purée, vegetables, vegetable purée and various liquids (milk, buttermilk, fruit juice or stock).  The wet and dry ingredients are mixed separately, in two different bowls, then briefly stirred together just prior to baking.  FYI:  Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, soda bread and waffles -- they all fall into the quick-bread category too.

Calling all lovers of peanut butter & bananas.

IMG_1020This bread is moist, chewy & chocked full of fruit & nut flavors.

IMG_07961 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1/2  cup granulated sugar

1/2  cup lightly-packed light-brown sugar

2  teaspoons each:  pure banana and vanilla extract

2  large, 7 1/2-8-ounce bananas, smashed with a fork, about 1 1/2 cups smashed bananas

1/2  cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, your choice

2  cups tropical trail mix (dried coconut, mango, papaya and pineapple, raisins, banana chips, brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts), your favorite brand

IMG_0969~ Step 1.  Spray the insides of 4, 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" mini, 2-cup capacity loaf pans with no-stick cooking spray.  Feel free to bake this quick bread in one (8-cup capacity) or two (4-cup capacity) larger loaves, just know the baking time will be affected -- it will take somewhat longer.  I bake small loaves so Joe and I can eat one and freeze three for other days.

IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807~Step 2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder and salt.  In a 2-cup measuring container, mash the bananas with a fork -- there will be about 1 1/2 cups.  Stir the extracts into the smashed bananas, then, add and stir in the peanut butter -- there will be about 2 cups banana-peanut butter mixture.  Set aside.

IMG_0812 IMG_0812 IMG_0812 IMG_0812~Step 3.  In a large bowl, starting on low and working your way up to high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the butter, sugars and egg together, while scraping down the sides of bowl with a large rubber spatula.  Lower mixer speed and fold in the banana-peanut butter mixture.

IMG_0826 IMG_0826 IMG_0826 IMG_0826~Step 4.  Remove the mixer.  Using the rubber spatula, alternating the dry flour-oat mixture with the trail mix, fold the two mixtures into the wet mixture, in two increments each (half then half).

IMG_0972 2 IMG_0972 2 IMG_0984 IMG_0986~Step 5.  Divide and transfer mixture to prepared pans -- I use a soup ladle and a kitchen scale. Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven, 30-35 minutes, or until lightly and nicely browned, puffed up through to the centers, and, a cake tester inserted into the thickest middle of each loaf comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool, in pan on a wire rack, for 5-6 minutes prior to inverting from pans to cool completely, 1-2 hours or overnight, prior to slicing and serving.

Cool completely, 1-2 hours, prior to slicing & serving.

IMG_1011Dare to be square -- same recipe different pan -- for lunch boxes: 

IMG_0855Peanut Butter-Banana-Oat & Trail Mix Quick Bread:  Recipe yields 4, 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" mini-loaves/4 servings per loaf/2 slices per person.

Special Equipment List:  4, 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" mini, 2-cup capacity loaf pans; spoon; 2-cup measuring container; fork; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; soup ladle; kitchen scale; wire cooling rack

IMG_9571Cook's Note:  I enjoy making muffins and quick breads using Summer fruits.  That said, I enjoy bananas all year long, I eat one each and every day, and, when it comes to Summer berries, strawberries are my favorite. In my recipe for ~ Summer Strawberry and Banana Breakfast Muffins ~, I combine the two, and, on occasion, for crunch, I throw a cup of tropical trail mix in them too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)